It can “learn” to tap its toe and bob its head. And then it can make sounds as you move its arms. It’s a robotic interface for music – a bit like playing with a very smart toy doll.
To show off its interactive/interfacing abilities, the team behind Poppy used music.
Poppy is a robot that can be produced with a 3D printer. All the hardware and software are fully open source. The idea – fused with cash from the EU’s European Research Council for funding science and creativity – is to help teach, as well as to empower engineers, scientists, and researchers. Apart from getting kids excited by being really cool, robotics are an excellent way to explore ideas in physical space, honing skills around logic as well as programming.
The combination of robotics and teaching has a long, proud history; look no further than the Logo programming language and the educational Turtle robot. See the founding pioneers of creative computing who led that effort, like roboticist and neuroscientist William Grey Walter, Wally Feurzeig, AI pioneer Seymour Papert, and notably Cynthia Solomon. Solomon helped create Logo, but also took that R&D to Apple and Atari, which brought it to the masses – I was a child of that effort, experiencing Logo for the first time on the Apple //e and going on to teach creative coding myself.
The juncture of science and computer science with music, though is an important one. It can make those concepts expressive and immediate.
This video could just be the beginning: the research team, led by France’s Dr. Clément Moulin-Frier, produced it after just a few hours in a code spring, plus the video. So, you could well build on this idea and do something better, given more time. In the meantime, I think it’s already more than reasonably fun.
You’ll find more details on the Poppy forum:
Poppy in a musical setup, please share your ideas
The same team created a Kinect-tracked robotic dance, which is oddly mesmerizing:
More on that effort, by dancer Marie-Aline and researcher/developer Jean-Marc Weber:
Artist residency: Êtres et Numérique
The European Commission has a release on the project in general (here printed in the English-language Prague Post):
An overview video covers how the whole rig works:
Here’s what assembly looks like:
And printing goes something like this, as a hand is produced on a Makerbot Replicator. (Fun trivia: years ago, before founding Makerbot, now-celebrity Bre Pettis was one of the first presenters at CDM’s MusicMakers/Handmade Music event, showing off a cassette tape Mellotron built with Etsy’s Eric Beug. I think it even sort of worked. So, here, things come sort of full circle.)
You’re going to need access to a 3D printer, of course, to try this out, but if someone ventures into experimenting with Poppy, we’d love to hear about it.